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camping in extreme temps

Keeping Cool In Extreme Heat – Ideas From Burning Man

Unfortunately there’s no secret remedy for keeping cool in extreme heat while camping in an RV, in fact the best option is to pack it up and move somewhere cooler, your house does have wheels ya know!

If you can’t move to cooler temps, or maybe you’re just crazy and still want to camp out in the wild on 100 degree days, here are some Beat-the-Heat tips we’ve found over the years to help.

For us, there’s no better place than Burning Man for a little outside-the-box thinking, especially when it comes to staying cool in extreme heat. With the desert highs reaching into the 100’s and no shade trees for miles, people are forced to be resourceful to keep themselves and their RVs cool.

camping in extreme temps

Here’s a quick rundown on what we covered in the video, along with a few additional tips, tricks and gadgets to help keep you (and the RV, trailer or tiny home) cool on hot days.  You can find more information on most of these products in our store too under summer RV gear.

Park North

Point your windshield facing north so the morning sun on the RV is blocked by the built-in awning. Then during the hottest part of the day your RV casts a huge shadow on your outdoor living space keeping things way cooler in the afternoon and early evening.

Radiant Barrier

You can use the Reflectix bubble insulation like we did but I’d personally order the more fancy, durable, lightweight and more compact stuff. The most important part is to get the “no tear” durable radiant barrier if you want it to last through multiple uses. Finally make sure you put the foil on the outside of the windows with removable painters tape, putting reflective material on the inside of the windows won’t be as effective and may even damage dual pane windows. Yes it’s expensive but it’s worth every penny.

Reflectix – http://amzn.to/2ajsdNX

 

radiant heat barrier

More Info 

Create Shade

When there’s no shade to be found you must create your own. Once an RV heats up its nearly impossible to get it cooled back down unless you run the A/C. Creating shade can keep the rig way cooler! As you see in the video our shade setup worked ok but not as well as we’d have liked. Below are a couple of shade fabrics that have received better reviews, come in different colors to match your style, and can be put on poles to create loads of shade (think of it as an extra awning). If you plan to camp in heat often you might prefer to build something custom from a company (like this, http://www.shelter-systems.com/burningman-shade.html). If you want to engineer your own system we’ve been told ordering from a gardening specialist will be less expensive than a “burning man” specialist. We had several people at Burning Man claim they’ve been using the same silver aluminet solar shade for 5+ years.

Sun Shade – http://amzn.to/2a6OPlL

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Cook Outside

A solar oven is great for cooking with the sun and keeping the heat out of the RV. Of course any outside grill or stove will work the same and some BBQ grills (like the Q) can even tap into your on board propane so you don’t have to carry a bunch of little bottles.

Sun Oven – https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/all-american-sun-oven 

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Air Movement

Fans are great to circulate air, and if you’re overheating spritz yourself with some water and stand in front of the breeze…you’ll instantly feel cooler. A HEPA filter fan will help trap any junk in the air, an ionizer will knock down the dust to keep the air a little cleaner and having one with oscillation is a bonus. The MaxxFan Deluxe has settings built-in to kick on and off depending on temperatures and has worked extremely well for us over the years.

Max Air Fan – https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/maxxair-7500k-maxxfan-white-deluxe 

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Filters in the Windows

You must leave windows open to circulate air so you’ll want a good filter to trap any dust before it enters the RV. Any A/C filter will help but the more expensive ones work the best, or better yet if you plan to camp in dusty areas often then purchase the washable filter roll so you can customize and reuse the filters. A good reusable filter should last you through years.

Filter – http://amzn.to/2agsgLY 

keep the dust out

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Evaporative Coolers

The first time we stepped into an RV cooled with an evaporative cooler we were BLOWN AWAY! A good evaporative cooler will chill an RV (or self built structure) by 10-30 degrees in warm, dry climates. There are some great portable options like the ones listed below but if you enjoy a good DIY project, make your own! Our favorite version is made for RVs and the main benefit is it can pull water directly from your fresh water tank so you don’t have to worry about running out of water. It’s made to fit perfectly in a standard vent fan opening so the install doesn’t involve cutting any holes into the roof. At the AEZ camp at Burning Man we walked into many RVs and yurts with swamp coolers that were substantially cooler, some even 20+ degrees cooler than the outside temperatures.

Evaporative Cooler – http://amzn.to/2a1uw5D

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Solar and Battery

The more toys you purchase to keep cool the more power you’re going to eat through. Make sure you have plenty of solar and a large enough battery bank to support your needs. A good rule of thumb is one-to-one, meaning if you need 1000 amp hours of battery to run your gadgets you should invest in 1000 watts of solar.

Solar Power – https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/solar 

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Of course you can always run the generator non-stop and crank that rooftop air conditioner, but that kinda defeats the purpose of wild camping.

If you’ve been to Burning Man, Quartzite or any other wild camping gathering and have a few additional tips, ideas or comments please share them below. I am sure we’ve probably missed something here 🙂

Famous for my "how-not-to" videos, and typically the man behind the camera, sometimes I’m forced to be here in the “spotlight”. When you see my face you’re probably reading something more technical than adventurous, but either way I do my best to tell it like it is and infuse my opinions into the commentary…after all this is a blog and not MSN.

Comments (52)

  • john

    I should have added that my idea springs from the thought that maybe since the stick-on panels are dark and therefore soak more of the sun’s heat than if they were white or whatever, that maybe the coating would repel some of the heat (but only if the bottom of the panel heats up nearly as much as its exposed top surface.

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  • john

    Do you think your RV would be cooler if you had coated the roof with ceramic paint (or any other coating that’s supposed to be a heat barrier) before sticking the panels on top of the coated area ?

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  • I really like the idea of using an ionizer to keep the dust out of the air. I can see how this would be helpful for arid environments that track a lot of dust into the house. I might just buy one of these ionizers in the future to keep the air cleaner.

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  • Barry Brumitt

    I’ve been experimenting with various dwelling/cooling systems for use burning man for over a decade now and have built a mister-driven evaporation column, 4+ different evaporative coolers , two air-to-air heat-exchangers, two solar systems, a mylar dome cover + door (16′ 2V geodesic ) , a shade structure for 20 people, an H13 Hexayurt , a 6′ stretch Hexayurt with a novel sandwiched material walls (mylar, corrugated plastic, RMax), and even a data logging system to track temp/RH throughout the cooling system. In other words, I’m obsessed.

    The system I’m now focussed on couples an evaporative cooler with an air-to-air heat transfer unit, i.e. Indirect Evaporative Cooling as they say in the HVAC-biz. Ambient indoor temperature inside my H13 Hexayurt is about 20F below outside temperature (e.g. 78F on a 98F afternoon) at about 40% relative humidity — and virtually no dust! This is achieved using about 2.5Gal of water/day and 220W of power (200W of which is for fans, the remainder for the water pump).

    The evaporative cooler is built into a plastic footlocker and uses modern cardboard-honeycomb evaporative media to achieve 30degF+ temperature deltas. The evaporative media is vaguely like corrugated cardboard, but with bigger holes, wavy layers, and variable density — http://www.coolingmedia.com/celdek/ . The fans are 6″ centrifugal duct fans, though I’ve experimented with marine bilge fans as well… DC saves power avoiding an inverter step.

    To avoid bringing the humidity inherent in evaporative cooling into the living space, the cold air is used to cool in the internal air *without mixing* via the air-to-air heat transfer unit. It’s built out of corrugated plastic (eg. in election signs), cut into sheets and sandwiched with channels going in alternating directions. By feeding internal air through one direction, and the cold-wet cooled air through the other, the internal air is chilled. The now-slightly-warmer wet air is vented out. The air intake/outflow vents are venturi effect vents (roofvents.com) which produce airflow via the wind blowing across them — reducing power usage. The heat transfer unit’s volume is about 4 cubic feet.

    For this year I’m a) rebuilding an earlier datalogging system (4-6 channels of temperature monitoring, 2 airflow monitors, etc) in order to get handle on how to optimize the system. and b) improving my yurt to reduce the convective heat transfer (better door, mitered wall edges). I suspect I can reduce the power by 25% once I know how to right-size the fans.

    I’ll publish the design for the cooler and heat exchanger this winter once I’ve got good data. 🙂

    Thanks for listening.

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  • pat striffler

    Thank you very much for your video – tips I will give a try on ! But here’s one for you that I know works! I worked with helicopter / sky-crane logging company’s and found out pretty quick that the rotor wash (Air flow from lifting rotors) would rip any fabric in a few days to weeks of any awning material I found ! I found that by using old light weight garage door springs (these was about 15 inches long and 1 1/2 diameter by approx 3/16 Th’s) attached heavy chain repair links to ratcheting motor cycle tie downs to take up slack, with another tie down left some what loose in case 1st one with spring broke.
    Now mind you I’m sure there is better looking and functional springs out there now- but I used what I could obtain with the little money I had avail. And it worked very well.
    so happy trails and thanks again!
    pat medford ore.

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  • Hillary

    Oh man, am I ever glad I have found you guys!!! Number one, thank you for your videos! You guys are cute and the vids are informative! We are not Burn virgins, but we will be Playa virgins this year. We are thinking of bringing out TearDrop trailer. (Beats a tent out there I’m sure!) I’ve seen the silvery sunshade featured in your video being used by fellow Burners but have never found one to buy. I tried following your links, but only found the regular ones. Do you know where to get the silvery one, specifically. I am hoping to make it into an inverted V shape (or like a pup-tent) to then park the TD inside. Also, love the filters in the window. BRILLIANT. Don’t know why I didn’t think of those I use them at work! Do you all have Playa plans for this year, we’d love to meet up and chat!

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  • Marcelo

    great video guys!
    where did you rent the RV?

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  • Glenn L

    Hello! Great update, thanks! Every time a video is watched, I seem to learn something, that tells me that all those brain cells still work. I used to work for a “Green” company in Illinois some years back, selling the (non-bubble type) “radiant barrier” you speak of in the video. Of the 3 types of heat transfer, RADIANT is what most affects the camper/RV., The types of barrier are perforated (almost too small to see unless you hold it up to a light), non-perforated, and bubble type. Mark N. posted that he has about 2 feet of insulation in his (house) attic. This is where the perforated non-bubble type is installed over the existing insulation or stapled to the roof joists (and could do away with 1/3rd to 1/2 of the existing the insulation) and still be comfortable! Best used in a big temp swing, the perforated type eliminates condensation buildup, like the attics in the Midwest Winter while your house is 78 deg. In the camper/RV, you’re correct on outside install, that stops the heat BEFORE it gets in the window. This barrier is almost indestructible with a polymer weave incorporated in it. Other benefits too, but too much for here. All I can say is give it a try, it’s not really that expensive for the result. You would have to configure a way to use it (frame or otherwise) on the outside. If the opportunity arose, I would take a project camper that needs a complete overhaul and line the roof, walls and floor with this stuff! Well, that’s a project (I hope) is coming to fruition next year! (maybe even a video). Thank you both for sharing with the rest of us! P.S. look for the radiant barrier that’s made in the USA! (no, I don’t get compensated for this…lol!). ENJOY!

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  • DaddiBrown

    Re SHADE CLOTH and other tent materials and tie downs, use used TENNIS BALLS, put the tennis ball into a fold or two of fabric and tie your rope around the base of the tennis ball and then to your ground stake, it puts the stress over a very large fabric area and will not tear. Use other tennis balls to cover your ground stake ends. Cheers, DaddiBrown, aka BlueBerry Fairie

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  • We’re headed to Burning Man for the first time this year and used your article as the jumping off point to figure out what we need to do. Thanks so much!

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  • Jason Murray

    Very cool video Jason. I do have some advice regarding your western solar shade. If you fold it over a few times and THEN cut out the holes and insert the plastic grommets, you will increase the strength by the same factor of folds (i.e. 3x folds = 3x as strong and so forth). Cool outfits!

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    • Thanks, we actually did fold it over but any more than one fold and the fabric became too thick for the grommet to hold. In the future we will pre-order the stuff with the metal grommets already sewn in. Seems to hold up way better!

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  • Teresa K

    Thanks for the great “Beat the Heat” tips! My husband and I are heading to Burning Man for the first time this year and we are getting our 17 foot Bantam Flyer camper ready. We are long time friends of the Technomads. We stopped traveling about the time Chris and Cherie started, although we stopped and they didn’t. 🙂 Just wondering: will you be at BM this year? We’d love to meet you and talk travels. Our blog is down right now, but we have a photo gallery at http://koransky.com/gallery/index.php/TandA

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    • Well hello! We are currently in Alaska so we won’t make it to BM this year but perhaps we will run into you somewhere else along the way!

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  • Sabrina

    AYO!!! A swamp cooler on the playa IS heaven… as is chilled rose water. This is a great tip vid, but I’m dying to know where the cats vacationed while you burned!

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    • We leave our kitties behind to have their own kitty burn at the Cozy Cattery in Reno. A lot of fellow burners take their cats there and we all agree, they love it there and are never stressed when we return.

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  • Mark Nixon

    The problem with any RV is the lack of insulation when compared to a stick and brick home. My home has R – 54 insulation in the attic. That’s the better part of 2 feet of insulation up there! We can’t hope for efficient air conditioning in these temperatures. In these extremes, we can only try to keep the heat out instead of trying to keep the cool in. Great article!

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  • Personal cooling is big too… A wet bandana works great…

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  • Super cool video guys and fun to see a couple pics of our RV!!

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  • Jonathan Miller

    Yeah Burning Man is not for me either. I’m just trying to find ways to keep my grid powered a/c running 24/7 rig cool in the Texas Sun. I’m disappointed that RV a/c is not better than what it is. I want to hang meat in my rig, not sit there sweating while the a/c is running.

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  • loay

    I love watching your videos

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  • Douglas Sandmann

    I will be attending Burning Man this year for my first time. I will be traveling in a Winnebago ERA 70x. I enjoy your tips on how to survive the desert heat. From your experience is there any value to joining a “Theme” camp in order to feel more a part of Burning Man?

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    • You don’t have to join a theme camp but it is a great way to chat up long time burners and learn lots of tips quickly. If you don’t plan on running a generator then the AEZ camp would be a great one to join. Otherwise, maybe check out the lamp lighter camp as its also a way to volunteer and be a part of the community.

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      • Meg Schlachter

        We joined the Lamplighter camp this year… in a tent! What a great bunch of folks. We plan to go back again with our new camper and all these great new tips. Thanks for the awesome videos and blog!

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        • Excellent camp to join! We always love hanging with those guys. Have fun and if you get a chance, go over to AEZ and tell the mayor the Wynns say hello from the sea!

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  • Mary van

    I thought this was going to be a video about Burning Man and keeping oneself cool.

    I plan to go next year and had not considered all of the things to keep my surroundings cool.

    Thank you, good stuff to know!

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  • Wow, now I see why it’s been awhile since I read your blog.
    Am I the only one to notice that this entire post is nothing but ads?
    We all gotta make money, I know this, but really?
    You guys have gone as commercial as the technomads…

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    • Well Jim, I am sorry you feel that way. All of our information is free to anyone who wants to read it but it does cost us money to keep up this site and we do have to put food on our table. We try to provide helpful, valuable and entertaining content, no different than a magazine or TV. We have very little advertising on our site but those little ads and the links to our Amazon store do help pay for this site and the videos we produce. While we’re super thankful to anyone who helps support what we do by reading our blog, watching our videos and purchasing products through our Amazon links, it’s not required and it is a choice.

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      • Ky Y8gr

        Nikki, your response to Jim is Awesome!!!!!
        I learned quickly: my RV hobby, interests, and traveling aren’t free….. See Ya on the road…

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    • Mike

      I would love to live in Jim’s world where everything is free. Perhaps you should start your own blog Jim so you can see how much you make off of it… but you won’t because it’s easier for you to criticize.

      Keep up the good work Nikki, I love your guys site, it’s entertaining and informative. So just ignore silly people like Jim.

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  • I really enjoyed you Playa tips video for BM. For years I went…and was a manager at Media Mecca. Wondering, was that rental RV…or was it yours? If yours, you are truly brave. For years I used my Okanagan E350 conversion…and even with precautions, I’m still cleaning out playa dust. I shot a documentary about BM back in 2004…it was a Select Pick at the New York film festival. Above is a link to a finale video for the 2003 BM…

    I found your stuff because I’m looking for a replacement. I sold my Okanagan and my fifth wheel and looking for a used 25 ft motorhome…something like a Rexhall Vision V25 or a Gulfstream Sun Sport 26. I also liked your video on the under 30s…but very dear pricing…

    Thanks..?your videos are informative and enjoyable.

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  • Mike

    Quick question.

    How quiet are those vent fans? We have the ones that came with our RV. They move a decent amount of air but they’re really noisy.

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    • I won’t lie, they max fan is not as quiet as our Dyson air blade, but its not as noisy as the cheap vet fans.

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  • kristi

    I am thankful for all information on keeping that dang heat outside ! Seriously need the evaporative coolers in the desert, the moisture is needed and cooled water drops are more effective that just air conditioning here (Nevada). There are these fans with a waterline on, that ate better than the mister systems, they blow directy out at you, mister systems (outdoors) tend to get hijacked by the heatwaves.lol. thanks again for your timely information. April is here and its 85 already !!

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    • I have seen those fans that have the water line but didn’t see any at Burning Man. Breeze + mist = heaven!

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  • Truk

    Boats suffer through the same issues on a regular basis. A good solar shade dropped my 31′ boat 20 degrees in the summer. (Mine is a ShadeTree[http://www.intheshd.com] but designed for sailboats). The design might be adaptable for RVs with some creative engineering. The key is to build an airspace at least 24 inches between the roof and the shade – PLUS leave openings to move the air. Yours looks really close and it can superheat the air space between the shade and vehicle so quickly they lose effect.

    If you visit the north Chessapeake (Annapolis area), send me a note and you can see mine, and any reason to go sailing is a good one.

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  • Andrea

    Question- Do you have problem getting the adhesive off of the rig after you tape them up? I am assuming that you used duct tape? I know in florida the adhesive would be an issue. Thanks for all the great ideas!!

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    • NO DUCT TAPE, that would be a problem! That is painters tape you see and it has come off every year no problem for us.

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  • George Zeiler

    Thanks for sharing this! It was interesting to see that people would cover their entire rigs and areas with solar shades. If evaporative coolers work so well in dry climates, I bet misting units would work really well to cool outside areas. Did you see any misting units?

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    • We did not see any but I would think that misters would require more water than what an evaporative air cooler uses and might not feel as cool? But worth checking into!

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  • Great video with some awesome ideas! Pretty COOL!

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  • elizabeth

    Another wonderful video. Thank you for all the great ideas. On a slightly different subject, there is a free event on the Eastern Shore of Maryland that I just learned about and sounded good. The website, http://www.threshermen.org/ , has a LOT of information (lots to read). Long story short, it is a FREE, including camping (no hookups) 3 day family friendly event in August. Sound like fun for those of us who enjoy such events. I don’t know what apps there are out there that might include such things or ???

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    • I have looked into something of that nature before and have yet to find anything that shows events or festivals beyond really big events. I have gotten in the habit of calling the visitors center for the town we are headed and asking if there are any events going on during the time of our visit. That seems to be the best for now. I really wish someone would come up with an app where all of the towns could submit festivals and events.

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  • blake

    Thanks for the great ideas

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  • Lisa

    I love all your info. I watched this knowing that Burning Man probably was not my thing and this most certainly confirmed it. I need at least a tree or 2 in my scope of vision and a blade of grass doesn’t hurt either. Thanks for all the beat the heat hints – great stuff.

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  • Thanks for the fast response. I figured it might be something along those lines. Thanks for letting me know. Looks like a load of fun!

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  • Great tips. Love the air filters for the windows idea. Just superb. Just out of curiosity…why did you cover all of your logos and website info and stuff on your rig?

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    • Because promotion of any kind is frowned upon and burning man. They ask you to cover up any logos and we are happy to help keep it a promo free zone (for however long that lasts).

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